Seventeen Finalists Remain For 2015 USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team
Following four training sessions May 28-30, which featured 29 of the USA’s top 16-and-unders, 17 finalists were selected for the 2015 USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team. Finalists will continue training at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the final 12-member USA U16 squad will be named prior to the team departing for Bahia Blanca, Argentina, and the 2015 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. Athlete selections were made by the USA Basketball Men’s Developmental National Team Committee.
Scheduled for June 10-14, the U16 tournament serves as the Americas zone qualifier for the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship, and the top four finishing nations from the FIBA Americas U16 Championship will earn a berth to the 2014 U17 Worlds.
Selected as finalists from the 33-member 2015-16 USA Junior National Team roster were: Jordan Brown (Woodcreek H.S./ Roseville, Calif.); Wendell Carter Jr. (Pace Academy/Fairburn, Ga.); Carte’Are Gordon (St. John Vianney H.S./St. Louis, Mo.); Jaylen Hands (Mater Dei Catholic H.S./Chula Vista, Calif.); Elijah Hardy (Bishop O'Dowd H.S./Oakland, Calif.); Jalen Hill (Corona Centennial H.S./Corona, Calif.); Markus Howard (Findlay Prep, Nev./Chandler, Ariz.); Brandon Johns (East Lansing H.S./Lansing, Mich.); Tre Jones (Apple Valley H.S./Appel Valley, Minn.); Kevin Knox II (Tampa Catholic H.S./Tampa, Fla.); Jaylen Nowell (Garfield H.S./Seattle, Wash.); Charles O’Bannon Jr. (Bishop Gorman H.S./Las Vegas, Nev.); Ja’Vonte Smart (Scotlandville HS/Baton Rouge, La.); Gary Trent Jr. (Apple Valley H.S./Apple Valley, Minn.); Jarred Vanderbilt (Victory Prep School/Houston, Texas); Connor Vanover (Arkansas Baptist H.S./Little Rock, Ark.); and Robert Woodard (Columbus H.S./Columbus, Miss.).
“I know this was a tough decision for the committee,” said USA head coach Don Showalter (Iowa City H.S., Iowa). “Obviously any time you make cuts, it’s a tough decision. You’re trying to develop a team as opposed to picking out the best individual skilled players. Sometimes people don’t understand that that enters into the picture a great deal. So, developing a team from 12 individual players is what they had to keep in mind when they picked the 17.
“They picked the 17 basically because there was some really good competition in spots for playing time. Some kids showed a lot today in the last practice. So, we kept 17 and we’ll be cutting down to 12 later on, which will be even more difficult of a decision.”
The finalists will train twice a day, 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m. and 4:30-7 p.m., at the USOTC through June 5. The team will conduct its final practice on June 6 prior to departing for Argentina.
Assisting Showalter and the 2015-16 USA Junior National Team are Miles Simon (California Supreme AAU) and Sharman White (Miller Grove H.S., Ga.).
For 11 of the athletes, this training camp marked their second USA Basketball experience as all but Hardy, Hill, Jones, Nowell, O’Bannon and Trent participated in the October 2014 USA Junior National Team mini-camp.
Four have family members who have competed for USA Basketball in the past. Jones’ brother Tyus won three gold medals playing for USA Basketball at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship and 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship; O’Bannon’s father, Charles, won gold on the 1995 USA World University Games Team; Javonte Smart’s cousin, Keith Smart, won gold on the 1986 USA R. William Jones Cup Team and silver on the 1987 USA Pan American Games Team; and Trent’s father, Gary, won gold as a member of the 1993 U.S. Olympic Festival Team.
Held every other year, the FIBA Americas U16 Championship first was contested in 2009, and under the direction of Showalter, the USA has earned the gold medal in all three editions, compiling a perfect 15-0 record overall.
The USA was drawn into Group A and opens preliminary play against Puerto Rico on June 10, faces Dominican Republic on June 11 and caps the preliminary round with a June 12 clash against Brazil.
Group B features Argentina, Canada, Mexico and Venezuela.
Following the round-robin preliminary games, teams will be seeded, and the top two teams from each group will advance to the July 13 semifinals. The third- and fourth-placed teams in each groups will play in the classification semifinals on July 13. The finals are scheduled to be played July.
Chaired by Sean Ford, the USA Basketball men’s national team director, the USA Basketball Men’s Developmental National Team Committee also includes AAU appointees Rich Gray (St. Louis Eagles, Mo.) and Boo Williams (Boo Williams, Va.), NFHS appointees Herman Harried (Lake Clifton H.S., Md.) and John Olive (Torrey Pines H.S., Calif.), at-large representative Evan Daniels (Scout.com) and athlete representatives Chauncey Billups (2010 FIBA World Championship gold medalist and a member of three USA Basketball Teams) and Gerry McNamara (2005 World University Games Team).